The two-year research study in fluid-structure interaction by the US Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory and Texas A&M University proved to be fruitful. This research has resulted in the development of a tool which will be able to optimize the structural configuration for Future Vertical Lift vehicles while taking care of the air-structure interaction during the flight.

By next year, we will have a tool which will be used to optimize the configuration of a drone during the flight.

An aerospace engineer from the Army Research Laboratory, Dr Francis Phillips, said, “Consider a mission where the vehicle needs to get quickly to station, or dash, and then attempt to stay on station for as long as possible, or loiter. During dash segments, short wings are desirable in order to go fast and be more manoeuvrable, but for loiter segments, long wings are desirable in order to enable low power, high endurance flight.”

Also, he said, “This tool will enable the structural optimization of a vehicle capable of such morphing while accounting for the deformation of the wings due to the fluid-structure interaction.”

One concern with morphing vehicles is striking a balance between sufficient bending stiffness and softness to enable to morphing,” Phillips said. “If the wing bends too much, then the theoretical benefits of the morphing could be negated and also could lead to control issues and instabilities.”

This hints at the high computational costs for the analysis such as fluid and structural configuration. Researchers came up with a process which decouples the structural and fluid solvers to over these challenges. This will reduce the computational cost by 80 percent.

“This research will have a direct impact on the ability to generate vehicles for the future warfighter,” Phillips said. “By reducing the computational cost for fluid-structure interaction analysis, structural optimization of future vertical lift vehicles can be accomplished in a much shorter time-frame.”

Since two decades, various researches have been conducted on morphing aerial vehicles. The different thing about the Army’s research study is that its look at the fluid-structure interaction during vehicle design and structural optimization.

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